Website design is a discipline of digital design that encompasses a number of different roles and activities, including graphic design, front-end development, technical development, user experience, content generation and much more. With millions of websites accessed across the internet every day, this article will explore the different types of website design, how they are used and the principles used to create them.
Website design and the internet go hand-in-hand — and it would be true to say that both have evolved significantly since their inception. From the early 1990s, early websites used a simple text-based environment to help users communicate, often between businesses, governments and educational departments. When compared with traditional forms of communication, the incredible gains in speed and access allowed website design to expand exponentially, bringing with it changes in technology, hardware and human behaviour. The first websites used a primitive form of HTML to organise data — this looked and functioned similarly to today’s version (HTML2), however, it didn’t have any of the visual style, interaction design or accessibility associated with modern website design.
Today, website design covers a huge range of formats, principles and roles. In the United States alone, the website design services market is estimated to be worth $40.8 billion (IBISWorld via HubSpot, November 2021).
Recent examples of website design by LBD Studio include the Halley Stevensons website, the recent Max McCance portfolio website and the Back Onside charity website.
With over 15 years of experience in designing and building bespoke websites, we develop high-quality websites for a wide range of clients and industries. We build all websites to meet and exceed the latest web standards — these include topics like data management, accessibility, user experience, programming language and other technical considerations.
As with print design or brand identity, we use a number of established processes when designing a new website. These processes have evolved over the years, helping us to create digital products that answer the client brief while also achieving technical excellence. These website design processes include:
When designing a new website, we begin by working with the client to define a clear creative and technical brief. This will include a detailed overview of the end product, how the website will be built, the content hierarchy and an idea of timelines, schedules and budgets.
A good website brief will define the overall ‘design intent’ — the problem that the website is looking to resolve and how the solution will be achieved. A common design intent may be building awareness of a new product, producing an online exhibition or launching a new service. The brief will also define the scope of the website, how it should be structured and how long it should be live. When possible, we aim to keep our websites simple to use, technically robust and visually impactful. This can range from a single landing page with interactive functionality, to eCommerce stores and multi-language websites. As a rule, our websites are easy to maintain and update — we do this by making sure our products are lightweight and contain just enough code to run smoothly.
We also define the core audience groups during the creative and technical brief stage. This means that we can build up an idea of who will be accessing the website, what they want to see and how they can be engaged.
It is essential when defining a brief to agree on what a successful finished product will look like — this helps to set expectations while forming a roadmap to follow in the later stages. The website brief is then used to ensure that all design work stays on track, hits the mark and fulfils its purpose. Once we have clarity on website design intent, we then move forward with initial research and information architecture activities — this includes sitemap creation and wireframing of key screens.
Another important process in the creation of a new website design is to create a unique visual design system. A visual design system will include things like the colour palette, typography, layout principles and much more, bringing them together into a single coherent visual language. Depending on the size and complexity of the project, designing a visual identity for a standalone website can be a big undertaking. Website visual identities are often simple in their nature as they need to be applied to complex information. Unlike microsites, full websites need the flexibility and depth of a full design system.
We believe that website design should feature some level of storytelling. We write a content structure and pair it with a story arc to create a narrative that users can navigate at their own pace. We use a mixture of copywriting and user interaction design to keep things engaging — this results in a unique user experience that is easy to interact with, understand and remember while ensuring users can quickly consume information with minimal effort.
We’ll build a bespoke content strategy to populate and reinforce the website — this can range from copywriting and illustration to bespoke photography, animation and brand film. These will build upon the website hierarchy and visual design system to ensure that everything joins up.
Once the website structure and content has been created, we move into full technical development. This means we build a standalone environment that our developers can experiment, test and iterate within, linking together the various elements identified within the brief. From here we create dedicated testing platforms that can be accessed by our clients and feedback groups before final refinements are made.
Upon completion of the technical development phase, we will work with our clients to create appropriate hosting, security and maintenance packages. We’ll build these within our secure servers and launch the new website, taking responsibility for the implementation of the switchover and server propagation.
If your business would benefit from a fresh approach to digital design, please get in touch and we will be happy to advise on the best route forward. We recommend that a strong brand identity is defined to ensure all online materials are unique, consistent and effective.